Keeping a finger on the pulse of healthcare

Tuesday, August 22 2017

Low cost hardware, combined with wireless technology and state-of-the-art cloud apps, will transform the business of healthcare, says Renew Group CEO Mr Ravinder Sajwan.

Where the untrained eye sees only peaks, troughs and blips, a cardiologist can read volumes into an electrocardiogram (ECG): how fast the patient’s heart is beating, the regularity of its rhythm and the strength of its pumping, for instance.
 
The ECG is a staple of medicine, helping doctors detect and treat heart attacks, arrhythmia and a host of other cardiac ailments. But getting one done is not the most convenient thing in the world. Patients must travel to a clinic or hospital, get connected to a machine, and then wait for a doctor to interpret the data—a process that can take several days.
 
 

Mr Ravinder Sajwan, co-founder and CEO of Renew Group

 

Mr Ravinder Sajwan, co-founder and CEO of Singapore-based technology company Renew Group, thinks that we can do better. The company has developed the world’s first wireless ECG patch, which patients peel off like a sticker and place on their chests. The patch transmits the data it collects to the cloud, where it can then be analysed with machine learning algorithms and made available to the patient’s healthcare providers.
 
The company’s larger vision: combining sensors, wireless technology and artificial intelligence into platforms that provide medical diagnostics as a service, thus reducing our reliance on expensive, space-consuming equipment, and cutting down on hospital visits. 

 

Coming from a background in IT, Mr Sajwan draws an analogy to the now-ubiquitous smartphone. “What makes your phone smart are the apps that run in the cloud. The device itself is not really smart, it just enables you to carry out a conversation or look at data.”
 
Similarly, Renew Group’s healthcare business model is based on very low-cost hardware (the ECG patch, for example) that is enabled by cloud apps. “You are no longer buying hardware, but the service,” he explains.
 
For now, the company’s healthcare business is focused on diagnostics for cardiovascular diseases. In addition to ECGs, it also offers ultrasound for cardiac imaging as a service, with image data being transmitted wirelessly to the cloud.
 

 

“There’s a lot of need for extremely low cost diagnostics that can be used at the point of care, but no one has been able to fully address this because each company does only one thing,” he explains. “Instead, we decided to focus on just one disease category, but we provide everything you need for that category.”

Renew Group’s healthcare business model

 

The third piece of the puzzle is a device that administers a blood test to detect biomarkers for heart disease; it requires a drop of blood, and also stores results in the cloud. This device could be placed in non-clinical settings such as convenience stores, thus saving patients a trip to the doctor, says Mr Sajwan.
 
Such devices could also save precious minutes an emergency situation—they could be used in an ambulance to transmit information to doctors while patients are still en route to the hospital, says Mr Sajwan.
 

 There’s a lot of need for extremely low cost diagnostics that can be used at the point of care, but no one has been able to fully address this because each company does only one thing,” he explains. “Instead, we decided to focus on just one disease category, but we provide everything you need for that category.

The Renew Group is now in discussions to launch these devices in Singapore in partnership with local hospitals, says Mr Sajwan.
 
The company chose Singapore as its base for a number of logistics- and business-related reasons. “We know that in the long term everything will gravitate towards Asia—it’s a large market and people will be demanding better healthcare as the economy grows,” says Mr Sajwan.
 
“Singapore is a great place to showcase innovation, and it’s transparent, honest and easy to work with. The government is also very willing to try new things to help the economy.”
 
Mr Sajwan, who was introduced to SGInnovate Founding CEO Mr Steve Leonard through Sir David Lane, chief scientist at Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and one of Renew Group’s advisors, spoke at SGInnovate’s Future of Precision Medicine forum.
 
“My job is really to disseminate this information, and to tell people that there are options available, that there are great companies out there working in the healthcare space,” he says.

 

Mr Sajwan spoke at SGInnovate’s Future of Precision Medicine forum

 

In addition to medical diagnostics, Renew Group also develops technologies for clean water and energy efficiency. Its water business, for example, focuses on brackish water cleanup for under-served areas, as well as desalination for larger markets. “Water is one of the biggest costs in healthcare, because bad water causes a lot of diseases,” says Mr Sajwan.
 
The company also places a strong emphasis on philanthropy, deploying a percentage of its profits towards development projects such as building clinics and hospitals, mainly in India.
 

 

“To be nimble in healthcare is kind of an oxymoron, because everyone expects things to happen in three days. But why shouldn't it be 30 minutes?” asks Mr Sajwan. “This is where you can deploy technology to help make things happen.”

Mr Sajwan shared on Renew Group's ultrasonic cardiac imaging device and the wireless transmission of image data to the cloud

 

Renew Group’s niche in healthcare, thinks Mr Sajwan, is as a sort of middleman who streamlines the flow of information from patients to doctors. “It’s a convoluted process that involves people, software and hardware,” he says. “This is the one place where we can make the most impact, because our experience in tech has taught us how to reduce the number of transactions, allowing us to be more nimble.”
 
In the future, the company is also looking into other areas of healthcare, such as gynaecology and physiotherapy. The smartphone model applies—by developing the appropriate apps, the same devices could be put to work across different business segments, explains Mr Sajwan.
 
“To be nimble in healthcare is kind of an oxymoron, because everyone expects things to happen in three days. But why shouldn't it be 30 minutes?” asks Mr Sajwan. “This is where you can deploy technology to help make things happen.”
 

For latest updates on events surrounding healthcare and technology hosted by SGInnovate and our partners, do visit our events page!

 

Sim Shuzhen
MedTech, Deep Learning, Healthcare, Machine Learning, Innovation, A.I.

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